Read with some interest and some amusement a recent story about single people living alone in the 21st century. It was published in The New York Times, for some editors at the old Gazette who think I spend all my free time reading Marvel comics.
The story, titled “One Is the Quirkiest Number — The Freedom, and Perils, of Living Alone” was semi-brilliant. People without wives, husbands or roommates confessed to these strange forms of behavior. Seemed to me they weren’t defending these odd habits developed over time. They were reveling in them.
Author Steven Kurutz found some great stats. Like one in every four American households is occupied by someone living alone. In Manhattan, the number is almost one in two. A sociologist has published a book about the rise and appeal of living alone; Atlantic magazine said there’s been a rise in the single woman.
Talk about the highs and lows of living single isn’t new. In 1936, Vogue magazine editor Marjorie Hillis thought the subject deserved a close look, and wrote “Live Alone and Like It” for single women. She discussed hobbies, boozing, saving money and having affairs. “Certainly, affairs should not even be thought of before you are thirty,” Hillis wrote. “Once you have reached this age, if you will not hurt any third person and can take all that you will have to take — take it silently, with dignity, with a little humor and without any weeping or wailing or gnashing of teeth — perhaps the experience will be worth it to you. Or perhaps it won’t.”
In the Kurutz piece, people ratting on themselves — when there are no witnesses around — provide the chief comedy/drama. One woman runs in place during television commercials, speaks French to herself, sings songs by 1970s rock band “Journey” in the shower and takes only the clothes she needs out of the dryer.
None of these folks cook meals at the end of the day. They chug orange juice right out of the carton. They leave their bras on the kitchen table. They never close the bathroom door.
I’ve heard about people talking to their cats and dogs. My single brother Tim has a cat — Augustus — but Gus mostly gets yelled at.
For me, as a lifelong bachelor and one without a roommate for the past 20 years, I am willing to confess. To me, the things I do inside my Albany stronghold do not seem that outrageous. “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” might apply to a woman who speaks French to herself, but not to a guy who uses too much ketchup.
* I’ll occasionally let dinner dishes sit in the sink overnight. But usually just on the weekend, and I’m really getting better at that. My kitchen is clean ... but I’ve got clutter in the ‘fridge.
* When I’m on a chocolate milk kick — and I’ve been on one since last fall — I chug it right out of the carton.
* I dry all my laundry outside, more an ecological quirk than an eccentric one. This mild winter means sheets and shirts have fluttered outside in January and February, so maybe my neighbors think I’m a lunatic.
* Television commercials annoy me, so if I’m watching a basketball game and an ad shows up, I’ll change the channel for two minutes, then switch back. Very annoying to another person in the room — I know, because I’ve been that other person in the room at someone else’s house.
* Shelves in bedroom closets have become libraries.
* I’ll take naps on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.
* Ketchup — I kind of joke about how fond I am of the tomato sauce, but it’s no joke. I’ll tip a bottle over a cheeseburger or some home fries, and fire a thin red laser beam into dinner for 10 seconds.
* Candles — during the fall and winter, I don’t mind lighting a bunch around the house. The sight would frighten any firefighter or scarecrow.
* I can’t resist a sale, and have about 60 bottles of Tabasco sauce in storage.
* I’ll use my shower towels for two weeks in a row.
Speaking of the bathroom, I always close the door, it’s only civilized. Only squirrels and dogs don’t care about privacy in my neighborhood. Plus, it’s hard to break a habit picked up 50-plus years ago.
I’m not as modest for other maneuvers.
I’m out of bed around 7 or 7:15 a.m. most mornings and, like probably a million other guys, I sleep in a T-shirt and briefs. I brush my teeth and walk downstairs to collect my copy of the old Gazette, which is on the steps outside the front door. I have a small front porch, and do a quick reconnaissance for any neighbors or passers-by. I open the door and grab the paper. Even if I do have to step outside to hit a lower step, I don’t think anyone’s watching.
I haven’t bought my robe yet ... maybe I’ll start wearing gym shorts. Boy, back to college.
And speaking of college, if I ever do trick a woman into marrying me, I know one thing will change right away. I’ve got a king-sized bed set, and the “bedside tables” at either side of the bed are really three-foot tall wooden stereo speakers I’ve had since 1974. They still work and are great stands for the lamps I use for all my night reading.
Another total college move. But the speakers will move to the curb the day after I get married in 2022. Probably the lamps, too.
I’m just kidding — I hope it’s earlier than 2022. The single life and all the fun that comes with it — watching unlimited baseball and corny movies on television, sleeping late, eating late, keeping four toothbrushes in the bathroom, making four-egg omelettes, tolerating a leaky faucet and collecting Tabasco sauce — can’t be as good as companionship. Nothing wrong with taking naps together.
I’ll be happy to start drinking chocolate milk in a glass. I’ll even give up ketchup!
But the shirts and sheets will stay outside.